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Pope worried about growth of deserts
    The Catholic Church is supporting the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, highlighting a problem that John Paul II warned about 20 years ago in Africa.
    Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, is participating in the UN convention underway in Bonn, Germany.
    The meeting, which has gathered representatives from 170 countries, is studying measures to overcome the threat of arable land that is slowly turning into desert, a problem that weighs on 1.2 billion people worldwide.
    Archbishop Cordes is also the legal representative of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, an institution created by the Pope in 1984, to alleviate the tragedy that he himself saw in 1980 in Burkina Faso, during his first visit to Africa.
    "The miserable and poor look for water," he said at the time.
    Pope John Paul II said in July: "Unfortunately, 20 years later this appeal has not lost its urgency: The problem of water is increasingly serious and urgent, not only in the desert areas of North Africa, but also throughout the planet. Lack of water will be, perhaps, the principal question that humanity will have to address in the near future."